By Francesca James

The Government’s Autumn Statement* has revealed some promising plans for local areas and businesses. In line with Lord Heseltine’s review, it plans to devolve a greater proportion of growth-related spending to local areas from April 2015, to encourage economic growth. It has also announced £5.5 billion of additional infrastructure investment and support for businesses, a £1 billion Business Bank to help smaller businesses access finance and support, and an Additional Investment Allowance — from £25,000 to £250,000 for two years — to support small and medium-sized businesses.

Askar Sheibani, Entrepreneurship Champion for Wales, chair of the Deeside Enterprise Zone, and CEO of IT and telecoms repair company Comtek, offers the following comment on the recent Autumn Statement. He draws on his own experience where investment in the local Deeside community, and commitment from local businesses, has regenerated the North Wales region and invigorated economic growth:

“It is promising to see that the Government has taken heed of Heseltine’s advice to empower the localities to drive economic growth, and the sooner this is implemented, the better. This shift will enable the localities to invest in the local businesses and individuals that will build the foundations of tomorrow’s economy. The Welsh government has already made strong headway in this area and by investing in local economies such as Flintshire, and the private sector-led Deeside Enterprise Zone, has proved that local communities will step up and take charge of their future, if given the chance.

“Smaller businesses will play a pivotal role in this economic growth; by providing employment, attracting investment, and encouraging entrepreneurial spirit, in the localities. The investment from the Government will make a world of difference to the small business community as it will have extra means to invest in its workforce and the local business environment, in turn ensuring its own prosperity.

“The £5.5 billion investment in infrastructure will go some way to support smaller businesses — from enhanced broadband to new roads — but it is disappointing to see that no recommendations have been made on how this will be done sustainably, without harming the environment for future generations. It would have also been helpful to see how the devolution of power would impact Wales and Scotland, and the share of the investment each would receive. In these areas, the proof of success will be in the pudding.

“The Autumn Statement proposes an exciting time for the UK economy, where growth is pinned on many smaller, profitable businesses across the entire country, rather than an over powerful parasitic centre.”